SOUTH DAYTON – For nearly 50 students of the Pine Valley Central School district, the future is now.
Pine Valley hosted its 66th annual commencement ceremonies Sunday; an event which saw 48 seniors walk the stage to receive their diplomas in front of an auditorium packed with friends and family.
The ceremony was narrated by Paul Mihalko, junior-senior high school principal, who reminded the graduating students that graduation is not only a celebratory moment, but one that required an extreme amount of effort to attain. Mihalko then introduced Adelheide-Heide Bradigan, salutatorian, who encouraged her peers to reflect on the accomplishment they should feel at making it to this point.
“This four-year adventure through high school got us on our feet and helped us stand up, but now it’s time for us to do the walking,” said Bradigan, who maintained a 94.75 percent GPA and will be attending Elmira College in the fall to study clinical laboratory science. “I don’t know if you all feel ready to do so, but I know that no matter what we feel we have the power to take our first steps and do it. We got this far, so why should we stop? Take those next few steps, and I promise that you can go as far as you want.”
Bradigan’s address was followed by that of Ahleen Pollock, valedictorian, who described the high school experiences of the Class of 2014 as a series of short stories which have been collected in a single book to which she must write the “epilogue” to this chapter of their lives.
“All of our Regents tests have been taken, all of our school pictures have been purchased, all of our modified JV and varsity sports games have been played; it’s all done,” said Pollock, who maintained a 98.48 percent GPA and will attend the University of Rochester in the fall to study astronomy and physics. “But while I wrote this speech, simmering somberly in nostalgia, I remembered there is so much to come. In terms of our current position at this stage, all we need to do presently is decide which plotline we want to follow; which words we want written in our life stories.”
“As your valedictorian, it’s my job to write our epilogue; but I can’t do that because our stories are not finished,” she concluded. “So, for the time being, I will close this chapter of our lives with this very appropriate two-word phrase: ‘The beginning.'”
The graduates also received a handful of life advice from a Pine Valley alumnus who walked across the very stage from which he addressed the Class of 2014 four decades ago to receive his own diploma.
Thomas Allnatt, Class of 1974 graduate, addressed the graduating class by recounting his roundabout journey from Pine Valley graduate, to Jamestown Community College dropout, to military man and finally to commercial airline pilot. In the midst of his experiences, Allnatt said he learned a series of life lessons along the way, which he was eager to impart to this year’s graduates.
“I challenge each of you to go out and explore the world,” Allnatt said. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and own the ones you do (make). Find your passion, dare to fail and, last but not least, seize your opportunity. Each of you holds the future in your hands. Make sure it’s the future of your own choosing; not one chosen by someone else, and not one of random chance.”
Allnatt’s keynote address was followed by the presentation of more than $84,000 worth of awards and scholarships through several foundations, and the ceremony was concluded once each graduate received their own personal diploma.
Class of 2014 members then met outside the school’s main entrance to participate in the traditional cap toss.